I’m not going to spend long on this because I know this subject has been tackled a lot already – there are problems with the language
around cancer – battle metaphors, and so on, which seem to imply that people who ‘lose the battle’ didn’t try hard enough, or that people with cancer can do something about it, which is ridiculous.
But I’m writing this because I’ve realised that when people saying someone has ‘beaten cancer’, that’s not really accurate. It makes it
sound as if as soon as we get the all clear, it’s all over. We are champions, heroes, and now we have ‘beaten’ it, everything is fine and we can go back to our normal lives. That’s not what happens. There is no going back to my former self, and at least for me, I don’t really feel like I’ve beaten anything. And I certainly wouldn’t want to assume that my ‘cancer journey’ has ended. Not just because I wouldn’t want to tempt fate in case it happens again, but because
with all the check-ups I have annually (which will be due very soon), I don’t really feel like it has ended even though my last operation was five years ago.
It’s complicated though, because when people tell me I have ‘beaten
cancer’, I feel sort of empowered and like “hell, yeah”, but at the same time I think “that’s bullshit, I didn’t do anything”.
It’s true we are like fighters or soldiers, but only because for both cancer survivors and the military, it can be hard to return to a normal life. Cancer happens to us. It is hard to get over and having it happen
to us doesn’t make us brave or heroes. We don’t win any more than someone who dies from cancer loses. Cancer is not one battle we win, and then it’s finished. Sometimes it feels like we’ve never left the battlefield. Sometimes we wonder when the ‘fight’ will begin again. So forget metaphors and abstract descriptions, it’s a lot easier if we all just say the word. And I’m saying that even though when I wrote this blog post out by hand, I wrote the letter C instead of the word because sometimes I just can’t bear to say it or write it down.
But here goes – this is the bottom line. It’s not a fight, or a battle, or any other metaphor. It’s cancer. And I think that even though I have beaten it physically the first time around, that doesn’t mean I will the
second time, or that I will ever beat it psychologically. One thing I hate about this experience is that people don’t realise how hard it is to deal with it mentally afterwards. It’s not just the physical stuff and then when it goes away you’re fine. There is a lot more to it than that.
Do you agree? What have your experiences been – do you feel like you have ‘beaten cancer’ or like you will one day? Do we ever really beat cancer?